Saudi Aramco World: May/June 2014 - page 14

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Saudi Aramco World
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M
ahamat Souleymane, the head of airport
security, takes a look at the surname in
my passport and smiles broadly. He em-
phasizes the double meaning when he says,
Welcome to Chad,” and repeats it.
I’m in this Central African country to explore Saharan climate
history through the lens of one of the Earth’s great geolog-
ical anomalies—the Lakes of Ounianga (oo-nee-
ahn
-ga). In 2012,
the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organi-
zation (
UNESCO
) added these 18 interconnected, freshwater, sa-
line and hyper-saline lakes to its list of World Heritage sites.
“Every lake tells its own story,” says Columbia University ma-
rine geologist Peter deMenocal, whose research underpins much
current thinking about the climate history of the Sahara. So what
stories can be found on nearly a score of lakes that are apparently
environmentally far out of place: in the deepest desert, more than
800 kilometers (500 mi) from the nearest other lake, Lake Chad?
There are two men on this expedition who have spent much time
searching and probing for these stories, and one of them is wait-
ing with three 4x4 vehicles to make the daylong trek to the lakes.
He is Baba Mallah, president of the scientific committee in charge
of Chad’s
UNESCO
bids and the nation’s leading scientist.
LAST LAKES
of the
GREEN
WR I T T E N
and
P HOTOG R A P H E D
by
S H E L DON C H A D
1...,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13 15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,...52
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